I’ve known it for years, but like a woman – a beautiful woman – however deceitful, you’ll keep going back to her.
Let me start from the beginning.
I began my reckless love affair with alcohol with my first run at university some forty years ago. It was just that – reckless – but I was young and wild and there was the seemingly never ending supply of parties and girls and so, why not?
Later in my thirties with a career and family I turned down the volume a bit and managed to become a much more moderate drinker. But I was still a drinker.
And so it went for another thirty years to where over time I have learned to limit myself to both a specific quantity and a specific time for drinking. That right there is highly indicative of how aware I have always been of just how much an influence alcohol has played in my life.
Over time alcohol has lied to me. Not one lie but two. The first lie was seldom told. Sometimes – maybe a few times a year – the bottle would beckon to me, whispering ‘another drink would be okay’. That it was permissible every now and then to step outside the circle.
The second lie was more pervasive, that by my managing my intake somehow suggested I was in control. The truth of the matter is I have always known I have been teetering on the edge of the abyss. And I have never kidded myself about that.
And knowing all that, I have dealt as responsibly with my love for drinking as one possibly can.
I learned just a few days ago that it was finally time to make a change in my drinking habits. And I was surprised to discover I was very happy about that because the lesson came at the expense of some recent terrible pain and suffering in my life.
First, I have been waking up tired every morning for the last few weeks and remaining tired – until cocktail hour – for the rest of the day. Yeah, I’ve managed to keep up with my running. In fact I’ve even ratcheted up my running schedule from four days to five days per week. But after a run I am kaput.
I thought, ‘What’s happened to my energy?’ It seemed to change so abruptly. My eyesight has been getting weaker too so I began to get depressed about aging.
Then a couple of weeks ago after an extremely poor night of sleep, followed by a morning run that included breathing some nauseating vapors of burning plastics, then a poor lunch that I couldn’t finish, I stopped to have a visit with one of my neighbors.
This particular conversation drifted across the red line into another pointless discussion of his practice and theory of nihilism which unexpectedly triggered a panic attack. I knew it was a panic attack because I had one twenty-two years ago. So I knew I wasn’t having a heart attack, but at the same felt moderate chest pressure and an immense claustrophobia that suggested I was dying.
The next morning the same panic began to trigger – this time over nothing – so I went and picked up a prescription for Xanax. Surprising to me the panic kept trying to trigger for the next several days which I immediately suppressed with the drug.
All the meanwhile I am thinking to myself that my life was abruptly beginning to take an extreme turn for the worse and maybe I was going to die soon after all.
Then the solution ironically presented itself through yet another nefarious health encounter – food poisoning.
So about four days ago I had lunch in a restaurant – one I sort of knew – where an hour and two after which I had mild diarrhea. That didn’t bother me too much. But I felt so extremely tired. So tired in fact that I almost called and cancelled a meeting with a friend scheduled for 6 pm.
I soldiered on. Cocktail hour was from 5-6 pm and I thought a couple of drinks would set me right. This particular friend can become a bit tedious from time to time and so I was particularly cognizant of the immortal words of Frank Sinatra who once said that sometimes a man must be drunk to tolerate his friends.
Remarkably my friend prepared tea and biscuits rather than his more usual mescal and snacks. He had a wide assortment of teas to choose from so I asked for a calming tea. I was still feeling incredibly weak so I excused myself claiming sleepiness after just an hour and a half.
I went home, brushed my teeth and went to bed although it was just 8 pm. Somewhere along the way I began getting these vile belches of rotten eggs and I knew then that I had food poisoning.
Note: I don’t throw up with food poisoning instead I get reoccurring belches of rotten eggs. In fact I can’t think of anything that makes me throw up. Nor can I remember the last time I threw up. I’ve always had a vigorous constitution which has allowed me to never be afraid to eat the street food from any city.
I was dead tired but I couldn’t sleep. 12:30 am rolled around and I got up to pee and take a couple of herbal sleep sedatives. Nada.
2:30 am and I am still awake so I took an antihistamine.
Maybe by 4 am I finally fell asleep and woke at 8 am. My first thought was that I was going to be on the couch all day but by 9 am I started to feel surprisingly good. So good in fact that by 9:30 I was putting my running shorts on.
On my run I got to thinking about how it was that after a bout of food poisoning and four hours of sleep that I still felt good enough to go for a run.
Then it occurred to me. My cocktail hour – generally two, from 5-7 pm – had been effectively cut in half meaning that my body had consumed half the alcohol that it had been getting nightly for the last umpteen years.
I decided to try an experiment. That night I was going to keep my cocktail hour halved from 5-6 pm to see if the results duplicated themselves. And they did.
At 6 pm I took a shower, made dinner, followed by two cups of that soothing herbal tea (called 12 flowers or something like that).
I slept better than I had in weeks. And I woke up feeling much stronger and that nagging anxiety seemed to have disappeared.
I have followed the same recipe for the last couple of nights and my strength is creeping back in all of its glory.
So it seems the party is over folks. I think alcohol has finally kissed and lied to me for the last time.
PS – I just came back from the plaza where I had a delightful chat with my friend, Flavio – he is 75 by the way – and I asked him if he still drank alcohol. He said no. He gave it up 16 years ago. He confessed that he came to have a problem with it. He winked ‘alcohol and the ladies don’t mix’. He’s still a handsome man so I could see where he was coming from; making promises you never want to keep just because the alcohol in you is putting you in harms way.
I used to have that same problem but as you can tell from this reading that now my problem with alcohol is different. I’ve discovered you can’t abuse your body in your ’60s like you could in your ’50s or even ’40s.
I told him I could seem myself doing the very same thing myself in another year or two and I meant it. After all I quit cigarettes at the age of 25. First, by firmly recognizing the habit for what it was. Then cutting way back until finally one day just giving them up completely.
Remember. There is always hope my friends. Sometimes the solution must be fervently searched out. Or sometimes the truth arrives in a more serendipitous fashion.
But never give up hope.
And like I was so rudely reminded, without your health you have nothing.